I enjoyed the film ‘John Carter’ a lot, even though the critics didn’t seem to like it. I enjoyed it so much in fact that it prompted me to buy the three-volume omnibus edition of the entire Barsoom series, comprising all 11 books, which I then read over the course of the following year. Towards the end of last year, I picked up the omnibus edition of the first three Pellucidar books, too. I didn’t enjoy them as much as the Barsoom novels, but having got a taste for Edgar Rice Burroughs I was intrigued to see ‘Worlds Of Edgar Rice Burroughs, edited by Mike Resnick and Robert T. Garcis, Baen’s anthology of new ERB-inspired stories set in all of his famous series.
As I started reading ‘Tarzan And The Great War’ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I quickly realised that I am completely ignorant of Tarzan’s literary history. I’ve seen the old films, cartoons and TV series and I was aware that they aren’t entirely faithful to ERB’s creation, but I hadn’t really realised the extent of Tarzan’s adventures. This story finds Tarzan in Algiers during World War I, where he becomes involved with several characters from the British and French governments as well as mysterious foes. This short and atmospheric story quickly made it clear to me that Tarzan had spent time doing other things besides swinging through trees and was quite an eye-opener. I shall have to investigate further.
The other two Tarzan stories are on much more familiar ground. ‘Tarzan And The Martian Invaders’ by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah J. Hoyt successfully contrasts his civilised life as Lord Greystoke with his life in the jungle and throws in some slimy aliens for good measure. It’s a fun and fast read, packing a rather large concept into a story that feels a little rushed but which definitely feels Tarzanian.
‘Tarzan And The Land That Time Forgot’ by Joe R. Lansdale combines two of ERB’s most famous creations as well as a woman from Pellucidar. It’s another fast and furious story, rushing from one danger to the next and pushing Tarzan to the limit to get them out of trouble time after time.
‘The Fallen, A Tale Of Pellucidar’ by Mercedes Lackey is one of a few stories that doesn’t feature one of ERB’s main characters. This makes it easier to enjoy for its own merits, unencumbered by the knowledge that you might be missing out on a whole lot of background information. The world of Pellucidar and ERB’s style are both faithfully reproduced in a story that could easily be chapter straight out of one of the original books.
Barsoom is the setting I’m most familiar with, so reading ‘The Forgotten Sea Of Mars’ by Mike Resnick was like sinking back into something wonderfully familiar. Not only has Resnick got the characterisation and style spot on, but the pacing and plot are convincingly authentic, too. It’s the longest story in the book and a real highlight for me.
In sharp contrast to his other fantastical worlds, ‘The Two Billys, A Mucker Story’ takes place in the real world of gangsters, kidnapping, and bare-knuckle fighting. Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens present Billy the Mucker as a rough-and-ready character, in his element tracking down a kidnapping gang, but completely out of his depth in his relationship with the glamorous Barbara. It made a nice interjection in the anthology, really giving a rounded view of ERB’s creations.
There’s a ‘Carson Of Venus’ story, too, as well as tales from a couple of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ less well-known creations. It’s amazing how well these settings have aged and how fresh and realistic his version of Mars is, for example, even though we’ve long known the planet to be uninhabitable. It’s quite a skill to future-proof your Science Fiction like that. The characters may be rather old-fashioned in their attitudes at times but that only adds to the authenticity of these homages. It is altogether a fitting and enjoyable tribute to the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Gareth D. Jones
(pub: Baen, 2014. 349 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.00 (US), $17.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4516-3935-3)
check out website: www.baen.com